Mike Richards will no longer be executive producer of the “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” game show franchises, Sony said Tuesday.
Embassy Row’s Michael Davies, who executive produced “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” will join the production on an interim basis, Sony said in a memo released to the media. Also, Suzanne Prete, executive vice president of business and strategy for the two shows, will be more involved in day-to-day operations.
The news comes just over a week after Richards was ousted as the incoming host of Sony’s long-running trivia show over previous abusive comments he made about women, Jews and people with learning disabilities. His comments he made during a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 resurfaced recently.
Richards, 46, apologized for the “unwanted negative attention” he brought to “Jeopardy!” when he announced his decision to step down as host.
“That’s what we hoped for when Mike stepped down from the host position on ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal issues we’ve all experienced over the past few weeks,” Prete said in the memo. “Clearly that didn’t happen.”
Richards came under scrutiny last month as rumors circulated that he would be tapped to replace the late Alex Trebek.
One of the scandalous reports was a lawsuit against CBS and FremantleMedia, while Richards was an executive producer of “The Price is Right.” The suit alleged that model Brandi Cochran was no longer invited to the show after she took time off for her pregnancy. The case was eventually settled, but Richards faced additional pregnancy discrimination claims beyond Cochran’s, which were unsuccessful.
In addition, in the wake of the announcement that he will be the new “Jeopardy!” host, many questioned Richards’ qualifications, as well as his influence over the process in selecting Trebek’s replacement.
The Ringer website reported that, as the show’s EP, Richards had control over nearly every aspect of the most recent season of “Jeopardy!”, including directing guest hosts, influencing the promotion of the show’s episodes, and choosing which shows were sent to test groups for evaluation.
Mayim Bialik, who was named host of ‘Jeopardy!’ in early August. specials, will be the first guest host of the daytime show after Richards’ departure. Bialik, a star of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Blossom,” will host three weeks of the show’s programming, likely the start of another round of guest hosts.
After Trebek died in November, “Jeopardy!” cycled through a number of guest hosts, a programming decision that many assumed would act as an audition process for a replacement host.
These guest hosts included Ken Jennings, an author with the longest winning series in “Jeopardy!” history; journalist Katie Couric, professional soccer star Aaron Rodgers, news anchor Anderson Cooper, CNBC financial journalist David Faber, and actor LeVar Burton.
A total of 16 guest hosts were brought in to wrap up the rest of the season. Richards was slated to debut as the new host for the show’s 38th season, which continues to air on September 13.
“Danger!” was the most-watched show in syndication this season, averaging 8.7 million viewers, according to data from Nielson.
Read Suzanne Prete’s full memo:
I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer serve as a Wheel and Jeopardy EP! immediately effective. That’s what we had hoped for when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal issues we’ve all been experiencing over the past few weeks. That clearly didn’t happen.
Michael Davies of Embassy Row has agreed to assist with production on an interim basis until further notice. Michael and I will be working with all of you over the next few weeks to ensure production stays on track and that we don’t miss a thing as we head into the new season.
I know this has been a challenging time for the whole team and I would like to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over the past few weeks. As Ravi said last week, I will be more involved in the day-to-day running of our shows in the future and look forward to working closely with all of you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need anything.